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FWC Division of Law Enforcement Weekly Report

This report represents some events the FWC handled over the past week; however, it does not include all actions taken by the Division of Law Enforcement.

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Photo: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Patrol, Protect, Preserve

NORTHWEST REGION

OKALOOSA COUNTY
Officers Maltais and Bartlett responded to a boating accident that occurred in Santa Rosa Sound. Once on scene, they discovered that a vessel had run aground on one of the spoil islands. The passenger of the vessel was ejected on impact and transported to the hospital where he was treated for a broken collar bone. During an interview with the operator of the vessel, he admitted his navigational lights stopped working while underway and leaving the helm to attempt to fix them without stopping the boat. The operator advised that while attempting to fix his navigational lights and while still under way, he looked up and saw that he was about to run hard aground. By the time the operator realized what was about to happen, it was too late to react.

Officers P. Rockwell and H. Rockwell were working the Destin Pass, Destin East Jetty area. The officers had received information that the pompano were biting and fishermen were catching their daily bag limit in just minutes. Given this information and previous knowledge of subjects taking advantage of this type of fishing activity, both officers planned to target possible over-the-bag limit violations. While observing multiple subjects for a short period of time, both officers observed one individual consistently catching pompano and then throwing them into a small bag hidden in the rocks. The officers observed the subject keep 12 pompano without throwing any back into the water. Instead, the subject continued to hide them in his bag hidden in the jetty rocks. When the subject attempted to leave the area with his fish, the officers followed the subject and later made contact with him. They advised him that they had observed the violation and knew that he was in possession of at least double the legal bag limit. During a fisheries inspection, the subject was found to have 12 pompano in his possession. The subject was then issued a misdemeanor citation for over the bag limit of pompano.

SANTA ROSA COUNTY
Investigator Hughes was contacted by Blackwater River State Park Ranger Hatfield regarding the Blackwater River State Park sign adjacent to the entrance of the park having been vandalized by graffiti. Upon arrival, Investigator Hughes observed that the park sign had been hit with white and light green paint. Further investigation revealed two broken beer bottles with traces of green paint which appeared to have been thrown at the sign and busted upon impact. The two sections of the broken bottles found on the ground underneath the sign had electrical tape around the top of the bottles. An attempt to take latent fingerprints from the partial pieces of broken bottles was conducted with no success. A possible suspect has been identified, but not located.

Officer Miller was on patrol at East River Boat Ramp when two subjects pulled up asking for help. One of the subjects had several medical issues and was lying in the bottom of the vessel. They had been fishing on East River when they both fell out the boat and over exerted themselves trying to get back into the vessel. Officer Miller called for EMS while assisting the subject up from the bottom of the vessel. The subject who was lying in the bottom of the vessel was taken by EMS to get a medical attention. Officer Miller then assisted with loading the vessel for the other subject.

NORTH CENTRAL REGION

DUVAL COUNTY
Resource Protection Services squad members were on water patrol working night activity in Northern Duval County when they spotted a small Jon boat operating with no navigation lights. During a vessel stop the operator showed signs of impairment and subsequent seated field sobriety tasks confirmed that impairment. The operator was arrested for BUI and a lawful test of his breath revealed a Blood Alcohol Level (BAL) of 0.14 two hours after his arrest.

Officer Griffis conducted a fisheries inspection on a subject fishing on the shoreline of the Trout River. The subject did not have a fishing license and was in possession of an undersized redfish. After further investigation and checking for wants and warrants, Officer Griffis discovered that the subject had two outstanding warrants issued by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office for traffic related incidents. The subject was issued a written warning for the redfish violation and transported to the Duval County Pre-Trial Detention Center in compliance with the warrant.

Officer Troedson had two warrant arrests in one night. At the beginning of his shift, he arrested a subject who had an outstanding warrant for a traffic-related incident. Towards the middle of his shift, Officer Troedson arrested another subject for having an outstanding warrant for fraud. Both subjects were transported to the Duval County Pre-Trial Detention Center in compliance with the warrants.

Officer Hayes was on routine patrol in the vicinity of the Jacksonville-Baldwin Greenways and Trails when he observed a suspicious vehicle with broken headlamps and missing fender parked south of the trail. Officer Hayes made contact with the subject in the vehicle who spontaneously stated he had a warrant out of Duval County for violation of parole-driving under the influence. Officer Hayes arrested the subject, transported and booked the subject into the Duval County Jail.

Officers Hayes and Holleman were on water patrol on the Arlington River conducting vessel safety inspections when they observed a boat occupied by two subjects navigating the river with improperly displayed numbers. A vessel inspection revealed that the boat had no current registration and no personal floating devices (PFDs). The owner of the boat was cited for no PFDs and the passenger was arrested on a warrant out of Santa Rosa County for violation of probation.

HAMILTON COUNTY
Officers Nichols and Mobley were patrolling a private hunting lease when they checked on two subjects turkey hunting from a blind. Upon checking the area, the officers observed bait placed near a decoy and well within 100 yards of their hunting blind. Both hunters were issued citations for hunting turkey within 100 yards of a baited area.

COPS (Community Oriented Policing)
Officer McDonald conducted a boating safety presentation for the District Headquarters of the Department of Transportation (DOT) in Lake City. Officer McDonald spoke about general boating regulations and answered questions from the group. Approximately 50 DOT employees were in attendance.

NORTHEAST REGION

VOLUSIA COUNTY
While working in plain clothes, Officer Yetter observed a man harvesting oysters in a closed area of New Smyrna. When the man began to leave the area, Officer Yetter approached and identified himself. The man was cited for harvesting shellfish from a closed area.

Investigator Crews responded to a report of two suspects at Tomoka State Park keeping many undersized black drum, then leaving the area and returning a short time later to continue fishing. Officer Ward responded to assist by observing the fishermen from a concealed location. When they packed up to leave, Officer Ward alerted Investigator Crews, who approached and performed a resource inspection. The men were found to be in possession of eleven undersized sheepshead. Both men were cited for the violation.

During routine blue crab trap inspections, Investigator Crews and Lieutenant Baer found numerous trap violations associated with one particular crabber, mostly dealing with improper or no escape rings and no degradable panel. Of the traps pulled, only about 15 percent of this particular fisherman’s traps were in compliance with FWC rules. A day prior to this, Lieutenant Baer talked to the fisherman who had several out of compliance traps on his boat in the boat ramp parking lot. The fisherman was told to make sure his traps were in compliance before fishing with them. Several days later, the fisherman launched at the same ramp in a different crab boat and began fishing his traps. Officers Bertolami and Ward arrived to assist. The fisherman was observed checking, re-baiting and re-setting approximately 80 traps. Based on previous inspections, the officers knew many of these traps were not in compliance with FWC rules. The fisherman made no attempt to make repairs to any of the traps before putting them back in the water with fresh bait. When the fisherman returned, Lieutenant Baer, along with Officers Ward and Bertolami performed an inspection of his catch and vessel at the ramp. The officers observed that the vessel he was fishing from displayed the wrong buoy color and the wrong blue crab number. The vessel also did not have a false bottom or bulkhead to prevent bilge water from contaminating his catch. The fisherman was cited for using traps without proper escape rings, using traps without degradable panels, commercial fishing from a vessel with no bulkhead or false bottom in place, and fishing from a vessel with improper blue crab markings visible.

ST. JOHNS COUNTY
Officers Miller and Hickman were on offshore Joint Enforcement Agreement (JEA) vessel patrol when they observed a deck light in the distance that appeared to be within three miles of the beach (state waters). Upon approaching the light, they observed that it was coming from a local shrimper who was trawling in state waters after the hours of darkness. Currently, it is unlawful to trawl for shrimp in state waters off of Florida’s east coast at night outside of the months of June, July and August of each year. Officer Hickman then boarded the vessel when it was approximately 1.85 miles east of Crescent Beach in south St. Johns County. The captain of the vessel admitted to Officer Hickman that he knew the current law and neglected to comply with it. Officer Hickman then issued the operator a notice to appear for the misdemeanor violation of trawling for shrimp at night in state waters of the Atlantic Ocean during the closed season.

Officers Miller and Hickman were on vessel patrol in the Intracostal Waterway (ICW) of south St. Johns County when they observed two Putnam County males who were fishing an entangling net and stop-netting near the south entrance to the Summer Haven River. This was the second report in recent weeks of these fishermen unlawfully harvesting fish in south St. Johns County and area officers had been on the look-out for the two. As Officers Miller and Hickman maneuvered their patrol vessel toward shore to contact the suspects, both of them dumped the net and ran from the area. Officer Hickman then jumped from the boat and ran down one of the suspects who did not resist once he was caught. Upon seeing his fellow violator in custody, the second suspect returned to the scene where he was also placed in custody. Once St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrived on scene to secure the suspects, Officers Miller and Hickman retrieved what turned out to be a trammel net partially constructed of monofilament line. The net had been stretched out about 100 yards across the east and west banks of the Summer Haven River and contained a few croakers, a jack crevalle and a blue crab. Officers Miller and Hickman seized the net, booked the two suspects into the St. Johns County Jail, and charged them with the following violations: use of an entangling net (approx. 1,300 square feet) constructed of monofilament in state waters (3rd degree felony), use of fishing gear to stop-net a waterway (2nd degree misdemeanor) and resisting a law enforcement officer without violence/fleeing (1st degree misdemeanor).

Officers Hickman and Miller were on park patrol during late-night hours at Guana State Park in north St. Johns County. Due to the unseasonable weather conditions, which often seem to increase the fish activity, the officers were targeting black drum fishermen in and around the dam structure on Lake Ponte Vedra. Officers Hickman and Miller were able to discreetly move into a concealed position within 15 yards of where they could observe anglers fishing the overflow of the dam. At approximately midnight, Officers Hickman and Miller began conducting resource inspections of the fishermen. The officers subsequently discovered three individuals in violation of the “trophy-size” black drum daily bag limit of one per person. The three local men, who possessed 10 “trophy” black drum in total, all received citations for harvesting more than one black drum over 24 inches. Officers Hickman and Miller also issued the men citations for remaining in the state park after hours. The officers seized the 10 fish as evidence.

ORANGE COUNTY
Officers Cogburn and McDaniel ran in the Special Olympics Torch 5K run. There were about 200 law enforcement officers from throughout the area running.

SEMINOLE COUNTY
Following a two-month investigation, FWC environmental investigators arrested a Seminole County man on a warrant for five counts of felony Florida litter law and five counts of trespass. A capias warrant was issued for a second Seminole County resident for two misdemeanor violations for Florida litter law and trespass. The individuals are suspected of dumping close to 1,000 tires at a private residential location in Sanford. The home is vacant and the owner was grateful for the investigative efforts of FWC.

SOUTHWEST REGION

CHARLOTTE COUNTY
Officer Sumpter was patrolling the Babcock Webb WMA when he observed a vehicle enter after hours. He made contact with the subjects after they came to a stop. While interviewing the female driver, she lifted her ball cap and a plastic baggie containing marijuana fell to the ground. Even after several commands to not touch it, the female dropped her ball cap on top of the baggie and then picked them up together and placed them on the driver’s seat. She was placed under arrest and charged with possession of cannabis under 20 grams and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Officer Ruggiero was patrolling the Babcock Webb WMA when she came across several trucks that had been off road. She issued a criminal citation for destruction of state land by motor vehicle to one operator that was stuck in a wetland area and an infraction for no day use permit to two others.

HERNANDO COUNTY
Officer Williams was called to assist the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office and Florida Highway Patrol in looking for two subjects who had committed an armed burglary. They fled on foot from their vehicle located on I-75 and were deemed armed and dangerous. As Officer Williams approached a piece of property adjacent to where the subjects were last scene, he observed two men matching the descriptions given, climbing over a barbed wire fence. Officer Williams gave verbal commands to the subjects and was able to apprehend the subjects without incident. The subjects were turned over to deputies where they were charged with armed burglary, aggravated assault with a firearm, and fleeing to elude.

HIGHLANDS COUNTY
Lieutenant Allen, Investigator Brooks and Officer Zimmerman conducted a detail to address traffic and security concerns at a concert at Highlands Hammock State Park. Several traffic warnings and a speeding citation were issued. One custodial arrest was made for driving without a license.

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY
A subject willfully discharged approximately 300 gallons of raw untreated sewage into the right of way of a paved Hillsborough County road from a commercial vehicle. The discharge area was documented as being 429 feet long and within 246 feet of the Little Manatee River. A Mosaic Mines employee witnessed the incident and called it into the State Warning Point. The business was identified as United Site Services and the management and suspect employee subsequently met with Investigator Hough. The defendant was interviewed, arrested and transported to the county jail and charged with a violation of the Florida Litter Law.

POLK COUNTY
Investigator Hough issued a resource citation to a male for maintaining solid waste at a non-permitted facility. The defendant was cleaning out foreclosed homes, burning the contents and scrapping out all metals at his residence.

SOUTH REGION A

BROWARD COUNTY
Officers Vacin and Albert and Lieutenant Laubenberger were on patrol in the Hillsboro Inlet early in the morning when they conducted a marine fisheries and boating safety inspection on a vessel inbound from the inlet. With information gathered, Officer Vacin issued the operator a criminal citation for possession of a prohibited species of shark. One dead silky shark was taken as evidence.

A couple of weeks ago, Ft. Lauderdale Police Department asked for assistance from Officer Corteguera and Officer Vacin. They responded to the Port Everglades Inlet area. With information gathered, they placed the operator of a vessel under arrest for BUI. A packet of a white powdery substance was also found on the vessel and analyzed by the Broward Sheriff’s Office crime lab. When the substance turned out to be cocaine, Officer Corteguera filed additional charges for possession of cocaine.

Lieutenant Laubenberger participated in and commanded a colors detail by the Broward Police Honor Guard at Long Key Park, which was hosted by the Broward County Victim Advocates. He also participated in and commanded a colors detail by the Broward Police Honor Guard at Green Glades Ranch in Weston. This benefited “Top Cops,” a fundraising event for fallen police officers’ families.

Lieutenant Laubenberger and Officer Katie Wright participated in the honors funeral for Broward Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Schettino. They carried colors and commanded multi-agency members.

Investigator Teems was approached by a female at John Lloyd State Park advising her that someone may have drowned by parking lot #4 on the beach. She followed the female to the Osprey Pavilion where she was motioned by several park patrons advising the subject was on the beach. CPR was performed by a park patron and the father. The subject was then rolled over onto his side spewing water from his mouth. The subject eventually regained consciousness and was able to speak. Hollywood Fire Rescue arrived and immediately transported the subject to the hospital. The father stated that his son was swimming in the ocean when he got caught up in an undertow and was raising his hands out of the water for help. Several people jumped in the water to help pull him out. The subject was under water for approximately 2-3 minutes. Investigator Teems contacted the father two days later after the incident and the father advised his son was still in the hospital, but was in stable condition.

GLADES COUNTY
One early morning, Lieutenant Brown, with the assistance of Deputy Ermeri and Sergeant Johnson from the Glades County Sheriff’s Office, found two subjects cleaning two does and two spotted fawns in a residence’s yard. Lieutenant Brown arrested both subjects because one was from out of state and said he was leaving for Alaska in a few days. The other subject had been caught with deer out of season less than a year prior. Both were booked into jail on several charges of possession of dear out of season.

Investigator Douglas and Lieutenant Brown received information that one of the agency’s biologists had his side-by-side, off-road vehicle catch fire on the lake bottom of Lake Okeechobee. Much of the lake bottom this time of the year is dry with long grass. The biologist was trying to walk 1.5 miles through the brush and stay ahead of the flames to get back to the levee. Investigator Douglas and Lieutenant Brown arrived on the scene and took their patrol vehicles onto the lake bottom to locate the biologist. The officers located the biologist and got him in the back of one of the trucks. Lieutenant Brown’s truck caught fire multiple times while on the lake bottom, but he was able to put it out with a fire extinguisher with no damage done to the vehicle. The biologist had minor burns, but no other injuries.

OKEECHOBEE COUNTY
Investigator Douglas received a call about a land owner who had found someone trespassing and hunting turkeys on his property. When Investigator Douglas and Lieutenant Strenth arrived, they found one subject with the landowner and found out another subject had also been there. Lieutenant Strenth found the second subject several miles away leaving the area. When Lieutenant Strenth asked the subject if he was going to leave his partner, the subject just said he was driving around. Lieutenant Strenth asked the subject to return to where his partner was and the subject drove straight back to the private property, not where he had parked earlier at the public usage area. The second subject admitted to being on the property and had run when he spotted the owner coming in, and had texted his partner, “We had better haul butt,” his partner didn’t receive the text message. Both subjects were booked into the Okeechobee County Jail for armed trespassing.

ST. LUCIE COUNTY
Officer Pifer was on land patrol on South Hutchinson Island when he observed two subjects wade fishing. Officer Pifer then positioned himself in a location that he could observe the subjects. After about an hour, one of the subjects made his way back to shore and then to a vehicle located on the side of the road. Officer Pifer made contact with the subject and observed he was in possession of a stringer with an undersized snook. By this time, the other subject had also returned to shore, and he too was in possession of an undersized snook. Both subjects received citations for the violations. The fish were returned alive back to the water.

Officer Payne was on land patrol in western Fort Pierce when he observed a subject cast- netting from shore in one of the canals. He also observed a vehicle parked near the area with several subjects around it. Officer Payne made contact with the cast-netter and found that the fish he had caught were in the nearby vehicle. A resource inspection revealed no violations; however, Officer Payne discovered an additional bucket of fish in between the two front seats of the vehicle. The bucket contained blue gills. No fishing gear was observed except for the cast net. One subject was cited for harvest of game fish by an illegal method.

COPS (Community Oriented Policing)
Throughout the week Lieutenant Rogerson, Lieutenant Harris, Investigator Garzanitti and Officers Pifer, Williams and Payne participated in several public outreach events. The 55 and over communities, Savannas and Spanish Lakes, had requested that officers attend their Homeowners Association and Fishing Club meetings to address members regarding any rule changes and special enforcement efforts. The topics ranged from a brief history of the agency, to salt and fresh water fishing regulations, license requirements and feeding of wildlife, in particular that of raccoons and sand hill cranes.

SOUTH REGION B

COLLIER COUNTY
Officers Harris and Reith performed a Federal Fisheries detail focusing on educating recreational fisherman on the updated Federal fishing regulations. During the detail, the officers issued warnings, uniform boating citations and six resource citations for possession of undersized red grouper, undersized mutton snapper and out of season gag grouper.

Officer Barringer organized the FWC Collier County Officers, Collier County Sheriff’s Officers and the Collier County Sheriff’s Volunteer Service Aids to conduct law enforcement patrols in Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park throughout the Easter holiday weekend. A total of 73 warnings, which included traffic violations, park violations and boating safety related violations were given. A total of 19 infractions were issued, which included traffic violations, consumption of alcohol, evasion of park fees, boating safety-related violations and Manatee Speed Zone violations. Misdemeanors were also issued for BUI, driving while license suspended and possession of marijuana.

Officer Tidwell and Emergency Medical Services responded by vessel in rough seas to a medical call from a vessel in the waters adjacent to Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park. The individual was brought in safely and was transported to the hospital for further treatment.

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY
A Miami area officer and investigator were on water patrol when they conducted a vessel stop with four subjects on board approximately one half mile north of the Rickenbacker Causeway. A fisheries inspection revealed a total of 49 mangrove snappers, three undersized mutton snappers and several other species of regulated fish. The captain of the vessel was issued citations for the over-the-bag limit and undersized violations.

A Miami area investigator was on water patrol at Haulover Marina when he conducted a boating safety and fisheries inspection of a vessel. The subject on board stated that they had caught dolphin and that he had “eyeballed” their size. Upon counting and measuring the fish, the investigator found the subject to be in possession of nine dolphins, six of which were undersized. The subject was issued a citation for the violation.

A Miami area officer and Investigator were on water patrol near Black Point Marina channel when they stopped a vessel to conduct a boating safety and fisheries inspection. One subject on board was cited for being in possession of a black grouper during closed season.

Officer Padilla was on patrol in Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park when he conducted a fisheries inspection at fishing pier #8 on a subject who was fishing. The fisheries inspection revealed the subject to be in possession of one undersized gag grouper during a closed recreational season and was cited accordingly.

Officer Martin was dispatched to a home in Miami where a two-foot-long alligator was swimming in a backyard pool. Once on scene, Officer Martin located the alligator hiding in the swimming pool drain and carefully removed it. Needless to say, the report of an alligator in a pool in the City of Miami attracted several neighborhood children to the scene. Officer Martin took this opportunity to educate the children about the importance of not feeding alligators and offered some historical data about the alligator. Several of the children took photos with the alligator before it was returned to its natural habitat in the Everglades.

Officer Martin was conducting fisheries inspections at the Haulover Boat Ramp when she stopped a vessel returning from a day of fishing. Between the six men on board the vessel, there were four buckets packed with fish. An inspection of the catch revealed the men to be in possession of jacks, grunts, lane and yellowtail snappers, strawberry and red groupers, and pompano. The owner of the vessel admitted to catching the red grouper and the majority of the snapper. He was cited for possession of undersized and out-of-season red grouper, and the possession of undersized yellowtail snapper.

Officers Delgado and Martin were patrolling Sandspur Island when they saw two men in the water next to an overturned kayak. They retrieved the two men and four dogs from the water as well as the kayak. The men and pets were given a ride back Oleta River State Park and educated on the limitations of a kayak.

MONROE COUNTY
Officers Mattson and Cox taught an eight-hour BUI transition course to FWC officers and Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Deputies in Marathon. Officers wanted to give the refresher course to the new officers before the summer boating season approaches. The class received many compliments.

Officer Dion, who is responsible for the Derelict Vessel Program in the Lower Keys, issued three misdemeanor citations to derelict vessel owners. One owner was responsible for a 50-foot wooden shrimp vessel that failed to bring his vessel into compliance. The other two citations were issued to an owner for anchoring his vessel in one of Monroe County’s ‘no anchor’ zones and leaving his vessel in a junked or dismantled condition on the waters of the state.

Officers Costoya and Munkelt responded to a search-and-rescue call on the ocean side of Key Largo where a 6-year-old girl alone on a kayak was drifting away from shore due to the current. The girl’s mother allowed the girl to use the kayak behind their home; however, soon after, the winds shifted and began pushing the girl out to sea. The girl and her mother both started to panic causing the young girl to cry as she drifted further and further away from shore. The victim’s aunt jumped into the water and attempted to swim towards the kayak, but was unable to reach the little girl. Officers Costoya and Munkelt managed to locate and rescue both the little girl and the aunt and safely returned them back to shore.

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